Author Interviews, Emergency Care, Mental Health Research, UCSD / 05.02.2015

Michael Wilson, MD, PhD, FAAEM Attending Physician, UCSD Department of Emergency Medicine Director, Department of Emergency Medicine Behavioral Emergencies Research (DEMBER) lab UC San Diego Health SystemMedicalResearch.com Interview with: Michael Wilson, MD, PhD, FAAEM Attending Physician, UCSD Department of Emergency Medicine Director, Department of Emergency Medicine Behavioral Emergencies Research (DEMBER) lab UC San Diego Health System MedicalResearch: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Dr. Wilson: Emergency departments (EDs) nationwide are crowded. Although psychiatric patients do not make up the largest proportion of repeat visitors to the emergency department, psychiatric patients stay longer in the ED than almost any other type of patient. So, it’s really important to find out things about these patients that may predict longer stays. In this study, we looked at patients on involuntary mental health holds. The reasoning is simple: patients on involuntary mental health holds aren’t free to leave the ED. So, the only thing that should really matter is how quickly an Emergency department can release them from the involuntary hold. Surprisingly, though, this wasn’t the only thing that correlated with longer stays. (more…)
Author Interviews, Brain Injury, Technology / 05.02.2015

Uzma Samadani, M.D., Ph.D. Assistant Professor; Departments of Neuroscience and Physiology NYU Langone Medical CenterMedicalResearch.com Interview with: Uzma Samadani, M.D., Ph.D. Assistant Professor Departments of Neuroscience and Physiology NYU Langone Medical Center Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Dr. Samadani: Research dating back as early as 3,500 years ago suggests the eyes serve as a window into the brain, with disconjugate eye movements -- eyes rotating in different directions -- considered a principal marker for head trauma. Current estimates suggest up to 90 percent of patients with concussions or blast injuries exhibit dysfunction in their eye movements. We wanted to find a way to objectively track and analyze eye movements following a head injury to measure injury severity and replace the current “state of the art” method of asking a patient to follow along with a finger. CT-scans and MRIs may not necessarily reveal concussion or traumatic brain injury (TBI) in the absence of structural damage, presenting a need for a diagnostic measure of head injury severity. In a study published earlier this year in the Journal of Neurosurgery, my team at the NYU Cohen Veterans Center tested our novel eye-tracking technology on military veterans, and found our device and tracking algorithm could reveal edema in the brain as a potential biomarker for assessing brain function and monitoring recovery in people with head injuries. Our latest paper, published January 29 in Journal of Neurotrauma, looked at a civilian population of patients admitted to the Bellevue Medical Center emergency department in New York City, with whom the NYU School of Medicine has an affiliation agreement. We compared 64 healthy control subjects to 75 patients who had experienced trauma that brought them to emergency department. We tracked and compared the movements of patients' pupils for over 200 seconds while watching a music video. We found that 13 trauma patients who had hit their heads and had CT scans showing new brain damage, as well as 39 trauma patients who had hit their heads and had normal CT scans, had significantly less ability to coordinate their eye movements than normal, uninjured control subjects. Twenty-three trauma subjects who had bodily or extremity injuries but did not require head CT scans had similar abilities to coordinate eye movements as normal uninjured controls. Among patients who had hit their heads and had normal CT scans, most were slightly worse at 1-2 weeks after the injury, and subsequently recovered about one month after the injury. Among all trauma patients, the severity of concussive symptoms correlated with severity of disconjugacy. (more…)
Author Interviews, Columbia, Schizophrenia / 04.02.2015

Mark Slifstein, PhD Associate Professor of Neurobiology (In Psychiatry) Dept. of Psychiatry Columbia University NYSP Dr New York NY 10032 MedicalResearch.com Interview with: Mark Slifstein, PhD Associate Professor of Neurobiology (In Psychiatry) Dept. of Psychiatry Columbia University NYSP Dr New York NY 10032 MedicalResearch: What is the background for this study? Dr. Slifstein: There has been considerable basic and clinical neuroscience research showing that the neurotransmitter dopamine plays a role in tuning cognitive processes taking place in the cortex. It has long been thought that dopamine is involved in the cognitive difficulties experienced by patients with schizophrenia, but it has been challenging to study dopamine in the cortex and other parts of the brain except in a deep structure rich in this neurotransmitter and its receptors, the striatum. In our study, we used an experimental design with Positron Emission Tomography (PET) imaging that allowed us to infer the amount of dopamine in the cortex. (more…)
Author Interviews, Depression, Lancet, Multiple Sclerosis / 04.02.2015

Dr Stefan M Gold Institute of Neuroimmunology and Multiple Sclerosis (INIMS) Centre for Molecular Neurobiology, University Medical Center Hamburg-Eppendorf Hamburg, GermanyMedicalResearch.com Interview with: Dr Stefan M Gold Institute of Neuroimmunology and Multiple Sclerosis (INIMS) Centre for Molecular Neurobiology, University Medical Center Hamburg-Eppendorf Hamburg, Germany Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Dr. Gold: Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a chronic inflammatory disorder of the central nervous system (brain and the spinal cord). In addition to motor symptoms such as walking impairment, patients with Multiple sclerosis frequently suffer from psychological problems including difficulties with learning and memory as well as depressed mood. Depression is particularly common in this patient group with a 3-4 fold elevated risk for developing major depressive disorder compared to the general population. Depression in Multiple sclerosis is associated with decreased quality of life, absence from work, and numerous other psychosocial problems. Despite this major impact on patients’ lives, depression in Multiple sclerosis is often not adequately diagnosed and treated: Antidepressant medication in this patient group often has side effects and the neurological problems associated with MS such as difficulties with concentration and fatigue make it particularly difficult for MS patients to complete “classical” depression treatments such as psychotherapy. The goal of our study was to make psychological treatments available for the many patients with Multiple sclerosis suffering from depression, who often have difficulties to find adequate treatment. For this study, published in The Lancet Psychiatry, we conducted a randomized controlled trial of a fully-automated, computer-based program that can be accessed directly from patients’ homes over the internet. The program called “deprexis” was developed by the Hamburg-based company GAIA and uses methods of “cognitive behavioral therapy” or “CBT”. Ninety Multiple sclerosis patients were enrolled in the trial and randomly assigned to a 3 months therapy using the deprexis program or a waitlist control group. At the end of the intervention, depression had significantly decreased in the treatment group but remained unchanged in patients who did not have access to the program. In addition, patients using the computer program also reported reduced fatigue and improved quality of life. (more…)
Author Interviews, Cognitive Issues / 02.02.2015

Dr. BidelmanMedicalResearch.com Interview with Gavin M. Bidelman, Ph.D. Assistant Professor Institute for Intelligent Systems School of Communication Sciences & Disorders University of Memphis Memphis, TN  38105 MedicalResearch: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Dr. Bidelman: Musical training as been shown to enhance brain function and impact behavioral skills (e.g., speech and language functions) in younger adults. In the current study, we investigated whether or not these advantages extend to older brains, which are thought to be less "plastic" (i.e., less malleable to experience/training). Older adults also often experience reduced speech recognition abilities later in life so we wanted to see if musicianship can serve as an effective means to bolster speech listening skills that decline across the lifespan. Main findings: 1) On average, older musicians were 20% faster in identifying speech sounds behaviorally than their nonmusician peers. Interestingly, this is similar to the benefit we have observed in young people with musical training. 2) We were able to predict how well people classify/identify speech via (EEG) brain activity in both groups. However, this brain-behavior correspondence was ~2-3x better in older musicians. In other words, old musicians' brains provide a much more detailed, clean, and accurate depiction of the speech signal which is likely why they are much more sensitive to speech behaviorally. 3) We compared neural responses generated from multiple levels of the auditory system and found that musicians had more coordination (significantly higher correlations) between different regions. This implies that the "musical brain" operates more in concert than in non-musicians. All of these findings challenge conventional views that older brain's are no longer plastic, are somehow noisier, and show poorer coordination across brain regions. In fact we show just the opposite. In older brains, musicianship does produce pervasive plasticity, provides cleaner (less noisy) representations of speech, and orchestrates more neural coordination. (more…)
Author Interviews, Cognitive Issues, Memory / 02.02.2015

dr-peter-bayleyMedicalResearch.com Interview with: Peter Bayley PhD War Related Illness and Injury Study Center Veteran Affairs Palo Alto Health Care System Palo Alto, California MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Dr. Bayley: There is currently widespread interest and debate surrounding the topic of screening for Alzheimer’s disease and other types of dementia The study describes results from National Memory Screening Day in 2010, an annual community event sponsored by the Alzheimer Foundation of America. Face-to-face screening takes place in a private setting; only the individual being tested and the screener are present. The memory screening consists of one of seven validated cognitive tests: the GPCOG (General Practitioner Assessment of Cognition), MINI-COG, MIS (Memory Impairment Screen), the BAS (Brief Alzheimer’s Screening), Kokmen Short Test of Mental Status, Mini-Mental State Examination, Montreal Cognitive Assessment, or the Saint Louis University Mental Status Examination.  Participants with scores below cutoff for possible dementia are encouraged to bring the results to their healthcare professional for follow-up and/or inclusion in medical files. We report the results from a subset of 3,064 participants. Overall, 11.7% failed one of the memory screening tests. As expected, failure rates were higher in older and less-educated participants (P’s < .05). Subjective memory concerns were associated with a 40% greater failure rate for persons of similar age and education but no memory concerns (odds ratio = 1.4, 95% confidence interval = 1.07–1.78). However, most individuals who expressed concern about their memories passed the screening tests (54-96%, depending on age and education). (more…)
Author Interviews, Brain Injury / 29.01.2015

Dennis Kim, MD Los Angeles Biomedical Research Institute (LA BioMed) Researcher    MedicalResearch.com Interview with: Dennis Kim, MD Los Angeles Biomedical Research Institute                                                                                                                 MedicalResearch: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Dr. Kim: More than 1.7 million people in the U.S. alone suffer a traumatic brain injury (TBI) every year, often resulting in permanent disabilities or death. Up to half of these patients will experience progression of bleeding inside or around the brain, the occurrence of which is associated with an increased risk of death. A common treatment to prevent progression of “traumatic intracranial hemorrhage” is the transfusion of platelets, which are irregular shaped cells that cause blood to clot, and the administration of desmopressin (DDAVP), a naturally occurring hormone used to treat bleeding and a number of other medical conditions. Researchers at LA BioMed conducted a three-year retrospective study of the records of patients admitted to a Level 1 trauma center with traumatic brain injury between Jan. 1, 2010 and Dec. 31, 2012. Of the 408 patients who fit the criteria, 126 received platelet transfusions and DDAVP and 282 did not. Overall, 37% of the patients demonstrated progression of traumatic intracranial hemorrhage within four hours of admission. We compared outcomes for patients who received platelet transfusions and DDAVP and patients who did not receive this therapy. Our comparison found no significant differences in mortality or hemorrhage progression between the two groups. We reported our findings in a study that was recently published online ahead of print in the Journal of Neurotrauma. (more…)
Author Interviews, Autism, Radiology / 27.01.2015

Gabriel S. Dichter, PhD Associate Professor UNC Departments of Psychiatry and Psychology Carolina Institute for Developmental Disabilities MedicalResearch.com Interview with: Gabriel S. Dichter, PhD Associate Professor UNC Departments of Psychiatry and Psychology Carolina Institute for Developmental Disabilities Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Dr. Dichter: The background for this study is that although most brain imaging research in autism spectrum disorders has focused on understanding the brain basis of social communication impairments, we know that autism symptoms are pervasive and may include difficulties with irritability, anxiety, mood, and even in some instances aggression or self injurious behaviors.  Additionally, these types of associated features are among the first that prompt parents to bring their child to a pediatrician for an evaluation for a neurodevelopmental disorder, and so we know these symptoms can be deeply troubling to parents.  All of these associated symptoms of autism suggest difficulty with regulating emotional responses, and so our team set out to investigate the brain basis of these difficulties.  We taught participants with and without autism simple strategies to change their emotion responses and then scanned them using functional MRI to measure brain activity when they actively tried to change their emotional responses to pictures of faces.  Our central finding was that although they reported they were able to change their emotional responses, brain imaging findings told us something quite different.  The dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, a part of the brain that controls emotional responses, was underactive in the participants with autism.  Consequently, they were less able to modulate parts of the brain’s limbic system that produces strong emotional responses.  In other words, they had difficulty “turning on the brakes” to control emotional responses.  Finally, the differences we observed in their brain activity predicted the severity of their overall autism symptoms, suggestion a direct linkage between emotion regulation impairments and autism severity. (more…)
Author Interviews, Cognitive Issues, HIV / 27.01.2015

Sophie Cohen MD, PhD Student Department of Pediatric Haematology, Immunology and Infectious Diseases, Emma Children's Hospital, Academic Medical Center, Amsterdam, the Netherlands Cairns Base Hospital Australia MedicalResearch.com Interview with: Sophie Cohen MD, PhD Student Department of Pediatric Haematology, Immunology and Infectious Diseases, Emma Children's Hospital, Academic Medical Center, Amsterdam, the Netherlands Cairns Base Hospital Australia Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Response: Since combination antiretroviral therapy (cART) has become widely available for HIV-infected children, the incidence of severe neurological complications has decreased drastically from 30-50% to less than 2%. Unfortunately, even in cART-treated HIV-infected children a range of cognitive problems have been found, such as a lower intelligence quotient (IQ) and poorer visual-motor integration. Importantly, while most HIV-infected children in industrialized countries are immigrants with a relatively low socioeconomic status (SES), cognitive studies comparing HIV-infected children to SES-matched controls are very scarce.  Understanding the prevalence and etiology of cognitive deficits in HIV-infected children is essential because they may result in more pronounced problems, and influence future intellectual performance, job opportunities and community participation. Also, early detection of cognitive impairment might trigger the development of early intervention strategies. In this study we aimed to compare the neuropsychological profile of HIV-infected children to that of healthy controls, matched for age, gender, ethnicity and SES. Also, we aimed to determine the prevalence of cognitive impairment in the HIV-infected group and detect associations between HIV/cART parameters and cognitive performance. We found that the HIV-infected group had a poorer cognitive performance compared with the healthy children on all tested domains (including intelligence, information processing speed, attention, memory, executive- and visual-motor functioning). Using a novel statistical method called Multivariate normative comparison (MNC), we detected a prevalence of 17% with cognitive impairment in the HIV-infected group. Lastly, we found that the center for disease control (CDC) clinical category at HIV diagnosis was inversely associated with verbal IQ (CDC C: coefficient -22.98, P=0.010). (more…)
Author Interviews, Cognitive Issues, JAMA / 26.01.2015

Shelly L. Gray, PharmD, MS Professor of Pharmacy School of Pharmacy, University of Washington, SeattleMedicalResearch.com Interview with: Shelly L. Gray, PharmD, MS Professor of Pharmacy School of Pharmacy, University of Washington, Seattle Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Dr. Gray: Many medications have anticholinergic effects such as those used to treat overactive bladder, seasonal allergies, and depression.  The general view is that anticholinergic-induced cognitive impairment is reversible, however, emerging evidence suggests that these medications may be associated with increased dementia risk.  We conducted a prospective population-based cohort study in 3434 older adults to examine whether cumulative anticholinergic medication use is associated with increased risk of incident dementia.  Using automated pharmacy data, we found that higher 10-year cumulative dose was associated with increased risk for dementia and Alzheimer disease over an average of 7.3 years of follow-up.  In particular, people with the highest use (e.g. taking the equivalent of oxybutynin 5 mg/day or chlorpheniramine 4 mg/day for longer than 3 years) were at greatest risk. (more…)
Alzheimer's - Dementia, Author Interviews, Cognitive Issues / 26.01.2015

MedicalResearch.com Interview with: Craig S. Atwood Associate Professor, University of Wisconsin Madison, WI Richard L. Bowen, M.D. Private Practice, Charleston, SC Medical Research: What is the background for this study? Response: Currently, there is no treatment for Alzheimer’s disease that halts or slows its progression. Alzheimer’s disease is a neurodegenerative disorder resulting in memory loss and impairments of behavioral, language and visuo-spatial skills. A growing body of biological, preclinical and epidemiological data suggests that the age-related changes in hormones of the hypothalamic-pituitary-gonadal (HPG) axis are a major etiological factor in Alzheimer disease. The changes in these hormones include not only the decline in the sex steroids, (i.e. 17-estradiol and testosterone), but the elevations in gonadotropin-releasing hormone and luteinizing hormone. In particular there are encouraging epidemiological studies involving the use of Lupron Depot which suppresses these hormones. In one such study which included hundreds of thousands of patients it was found that men who had prostate disease and were treated with Lupron Depot had a 34 to 55 percent decreased risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease compared with prostate-cancer patients who didn’t receive the drug. (more…)
Author Interviews, Baylor College of Medicine Houston, Cognitive Issues, Sleep Disorders / 26.01.2015

Michael K. Scullin, Ph.D. Principal Investigator of the Sleep Neuroscience & Cognition (SNaC) Laboratory and an Assistant Professor of Psychology & Neuroscience Director Sleep Neuroscience and Cognition Laboratory Baylor UniversityMedicalResearch.com Interview with: Michael K. Scullin, Ph.D. Principal Investigator of the Sleep Neuroscience & Cognition (SNaC) Laboratory and an Assistant Professor of Psychology & Neuroscience Director Sleep Neuroscience and Cognition Laboratory Baylor University Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Dr. Scullin: One of the purposes of sleep in healthy adults is to optimize cognitive functioning. When we lose out on a few hours of sleep we tend not to be able to focus or think as well as when we get enough sleep (typically 8 hours). Even more interesting is that particular aspects of sleep physiology—our deepest levels of sleep known as slow wave sleep and rapid eye movement sleep—are essential to our brain’s ability to take the information that we learn during the day and stabilize those memories so that we can use them in the future. Sleep quantity and quality change markedly across the lifespan, though there are individual differences in how much one’s sleep changes. Our work was concerned with the possible long-term repercussions of cutting back on sleep and getting lower quality sleep (less slow wave sleep and rapid eye movement sleep).  We reviewed approximately 200 scientific articles on this topic and we found that the amount of total sleep and the quality of that sleep is important to cognitive and memory functioning in young adults and middle-aged adults and can even predict how well someone’s cognitive functioning will be decades later. Thus, if you’re sleeping well when you are 40 then you are investing in preserving your mental functioning at age 50. (more…)
Author Interviews, Genetic Research, Mental Health Research, Scripps / 25.01.2015

Dr. Gavin Rumbaug Professor (Associate) The Scripps Research InstituteMedicalResearch.com Interview with: Gavin Rumbaug Professor (Associate) The Scripps Research Institute Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Response: We have developed a genetic approach that protects animal models against a type of genetic disruption that causes intellectual disability, including serious memory impairments and altered anxiety levels. The findings focus on treating the effects of mutations to a gene known as Syngap1. In our new study, we examined the effect of damaging Syngap1 mutations during development and found that the mutations disrupt a critical period of neuronal growth—a period between the first and third postnatal weeks in mouse models. We found that a certain type of cortical neuron grows too quickly in early development, which then leads to the premature formation of certain types of neural circuits. These findings help explain why genetic treatments in adult mice are not very effective. (more…)
Author Interviews, JAMA, Mental Health Research / 23.01.2015

MedicalResearch.com Interview with: David P.G. van den Berg PhD student Clinical Psychologist Cognitive behavioural therapist Parnassia Psychiatric Institute Early Detection and Intervention Team (EDIT) Zoutkeetsingel, The Netherlands Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Response: The last decade it has become clear that many people with psychotic disorders suffered severe childhood trauma. These experiences enhance chances of developing psychosis, but also result in comorbid posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). PTSD is highly prevalent in patients with psychotic disorders and negatively influences prognosis and wellbeing. Prolonged Exposure (PE) and Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) are highly effective treatments and recommended as first choice treatments in PTSD guidelines worldwide. Although there is no evidence to support this, patients with psychosis are excluded from PTSD treatment due to fear of destabilization or psychotic decompensation. Moreover, psychosis is the most used exclusion criterion in PTSD trials. This is the first randomized clinical trial (RCT) of the efficacy of PTSD treatment in psychosis. In this RCT 155 patients with a psychotic disorder and comorbid PTSD were randomly assigned to PE, EMDR or Waiting List (WL). In the treatment conditions participants received 8 sessions of 90-minutes therapy. Standard protocols were used. Treatment was not preceded by stabilizing psychotherapeutic interventions or skills training. The first session comprised psycho-education about PTSD and target selection. In sessions 2 to 8 traumas were treated, starting with the most distressing experience. Baseline, post-treatment and 6-month follow-up assessments were made. Participants in both PE and EMDR showed greater reduction of PTSD symptoms than those in WL. Between group effect sizes were large. About sixty percent of the participants in the treatment groups achieved loss of diagnosis. Treatment effects were maintained at six-month follow-up for both PE and EMDR. Treatments did not result in serious adversities. (more…)
Author Interviews, Cognitive Issues, Exercise - Fitness / 21.01.2015

Dr. Liana Machado PhD Department of Psychology Brain Health Research Centre University of Otago  Dunedin New ZealandMedicalResearch.com Interview with: Dr. Liana Machado PhD Department of Psychology Brain Health Research Centre University of Otago  Dunedin New Zealand Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Response: A large body of data indicates links between chronic physical activity levels and cognitive performance in healthy populations. Although the bulk of evidence comes from studies in older adults, a number of studies have established links in children and in young adults. However, the mechanisms supporting the exercise-cognition links have remained unclear. Finding from an earlier study of ours, published in the journal Neuropsychology, pointed toward cerebrovascular factors as potentially important. In our new study in Psychophysiology, we found evidence suggesting that higher oxygen availability in the brain is one of the cerebrovascular factors that helps support better cognitive performance in people who exercise more regularly, thus providing important insight toward understanding why cognitive performance improves with regular exercise. (more…)
Author Interviews, Baylor College of Medicine Houston, JAMA, Mental Health Research / 21.01.2015

M. Justin Coffey MD Associate Professor Menninger Department of Psychiatry & Behavioral Sciences Baylor College of MedicineMedicalResearch.com Interview with: M. Justin Coffey MD Associate Professor Menninger Department of Psychiatry & Behavioral Sciences Baylor College of Medicine MedicalResearch: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Dr. Coffey: Although both the US Surgeon General and the Institute of Medicine have called on health care systems to reduce suicide, the few assessments of suicide in such systems have examined only specific patient groups and not the entire population of health plan members. Our study reports the first information on suicide for the entire membership of a large health maintenance organization (HMO). The findings provide a previously unavailable baseline data for health care systems who are engaged in important efforts to measure and prevent suicide. We identified all suicides among the entire membership of our HMO network between 1999 and 2010, determining the date and cause of death using official state mortality records. In our sample, the annual suicide rate among all HMO members (including non-patient members) did not change over time, whereas the annual suicide rate in the general population of the state of Michigan increased significantly. Importantly, suicides actually decreased among HMO members who received specialty mental health services, whereas suicides increased among HMO members who accessed general medical services but not specialty mental health services.   (more…)
Author Interviews, Brain Injury, Inflammation / 21.01.2015

Alan I Faden, M.D. David S. Brown Professor in Trauma Professor, Departments of Anesthesiology, Anatomy & Neurobiology, Neurosurgery, and Neurology Director, Center for Shock, Trauma & Anesthesiology Research (STAR) University of Maryland School of MedicineMedicalResearch.com Interview with: Alan I Faden, M.D. David S. Brown Professor in Trauma Professor, Departments of Anesthesiology, Anatomy & Neurobiology, Neurosurgery, and Neurology Director, Center for Shock, Trauma & Anesthesiology Research (STAR) University of Maryland School of Medicine Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Dr. Faden: Accumulating clinical and pre-clinical research data indicate that traumatic brain injury (TBI) can lead to chronic progressive neurodegeneration. In this regard, most attention has focused on the connections between TBI and with Alzheimer disease (AD) or Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE). However, recent epidemiological studies raise questions about the association between TBI and AD, and CTE is likely a less common end-stage result resulting from complex pathobiological changes. In contrast, both older and newer studies underscore that traumatic brain injury can cause chronic neuroinflammation that leads to chronic neurodegeneration. In contrast to AD and CTE, the latter condition appears to be potentially treatable, even long after injury. Our paper critically assesses the mechanisms and treatment of chronic post traumatic neurodegeneration. (more…)
Author Interviews, Mental Health Research, Pediatrics, Social Issues / 20.01.2015

Ji Su Hong, MD  Department of Psychiatry Washington University School of Medicine St. Louis, MOMedicalResearch.com Interview with: Ji Su Hong, MD  Department of Psychiatry Washington University School of Medicine St. Louis, MO   Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Dr. Ji Su Hong: The estimated prevalence of preschool conduct disorder is 3.9%-6.6%. Approximately 1 out of 20 preschoolers has conduct disorder. Disruptive behaviors are common in the preschool period of development. However, to date we have not had scientific data to help guide clinicians to distinguish  between normal disruptive behaviors in preschoolers and behaviors that are markers of later Conduct disorder at school age. There were common misbehaviors which were found in preschoolers with mental health problems as well as healthy preschoolers. Those were losing temper, low intensity destruction of property and deceitfulness/stealing. Preschoolers who exhibited high-intensity defiant behavior, aggression toward people or animals, high-intensity destruction of property, peer problems and deceitfulness, including stealing, were more likely to have preschool conduct disorder and they were more likely to be diagnosed with a conduct disorder at school-age. (more…)
Author Interviews, Brigham & Women's - Harvard, Cost of Health Care, JAMA, Medicare, Mental Health Research, Pharmacology / 16.01.2015

Dr. Jeanne Madden PhD Instructor, Department of Population Medicine Harvard Medical SchoolMedicalResearch.com Interview with: Dr. Jeanne Madden PhD Instructor, Department of Population Medicine Harvard Medical School   Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Dr. Madden: When Medicare Prescription Drug Coverage started in 2006, many experts voiced concerns about disabled patients with serious mental illness making the transition from state Medicaid coverage to Medicare.  Our study is one of the first to examine the impact of the transition in mentally ill populations.  People living with schizophrenia and bipolar disorder are at high risk of relapse and hospitalization and are especially vulnerable to disruptions in access to their treatments. We found that the effects of transitioning from Medicaid to Medicare Part D depended on where patients lived.  Transition to Part D in states that put limits on Medicaid drug coverage resulted in fewer patients going without treatment. By contrast, in states with more generous drug coverage, we saw reductions in use, of antipsychotics in particular, after patients shifted to Medicare Part D.  This may have been due to new cost controls used within many private Medicare drug plans.  Given that most states in the US are in this latter category, with the relatively generous Medicaid drug coverage, we also found reductions in antipsychotic use nation-wide. Although a very large group of people made that transition from Medicaid to Medicare in 2006, thousands more still transition every year because when disabled people qualify for Medicare, they must wait 2 years for their benefits kick in.  Also, many other disabled patients are on Medicaid only and don’t qualify for Medicare.  They are of course affected by restrictions on Medicaid coverage, which vary from state to state. (more…)
Author Interviews, Genetic Research, PTSD, UCLA / 15.01.2015

Armen K. Goenjian, M.D., L.D.F.A.P.A., F.A.C.G.S. Research Professor of Psychiatry Department of Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Sciences David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLAMedicalResearch.com Interview with: Armen K. Goenjian, M.D., L.D.F.A.P.A., F.A.C.G.S. Research Professor of Psychiatry Department of Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Sciences David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA Medical Research: What is the background for this study? Response: Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a psychiatric disorder that develops after exposure to a traumatic event such as rape, war, natural disaster, and accident. Symptoms include recurrent intrusive traumatic memories, flashbacks, nightmares, hyper-vigilance, jumpiness, and anxiety. Dopaminergic and serotonergic systems have been implicated in PTSD. Catechol-O-methyltransferase (COMT) is an enzyme that degrades dopamine, an important brain neuro-hormone that regulates human behavior, thoughts and emotions.  Tryptophan hydroxylase is the rate limiting step in the synthesis of serotonin, another important neuro-hormone that regulates arousal, sleep, anxiety, and mood. This study evaluated the association of four COMT gene loci, and the joint effect of COMT and tryptophan hydroxylase 2 (TPH-2) genes on PTSD symptoms. (more…)
Author Interviews, Cognitive Issues, PNAS / 14.01.2015

Dr Christos Pliatsikas PhD Lecturer in Cognitive Psychology School of Psychology University of Kent Canterbury KentMedicalResearch.com Interview with: Dr Christos Pliatsikas PhD Lecturer in Cognitive Psychology School of Psychology University of Kent Canterbury Kent Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Response: It has been proposed that lifelong bilingualism preserves the white matter structure of older bilinguals because of the increased cognitive demands that come with handling two languages for their entire life. We wanted to extend this by investigating whether active (or "immersive") bilingualism in younger late bilinguals would give similar results. We showed increased white matter integrity (or myelination) in several white matter tracts that have also been shown to be better preserved in older lifelong bilinguals, compared to monolinguals.  Based on our findings, we propose that any benefit of bilingualism to the brain structure is simply an effect of actively handling two languages without presupposing lifelong usage- our participants were only about 30 years old and had been active bilinguals for only about 7-8 years. In other words, immersive bilingualism, even in late bilinguals, leads to structural changes that can bring about benefits in older age, by assisting in the preservation of the white matter structure in the brain. (more…)
Author Interviews, Autism, Pediatrics, Pediatrics / 13.01.2015

Terisa P. Gabrielsen, PhD, NCSP Assistant Professor, School Psychology Dept. of Counseling Psychology and Special Education Brigham Young University, Provo, UT 84602MedicalResearch.com Interview with: Terisa P. Gabrielsen, PhD, NCSP Assistant Professor, School Psychology Dept. of Counseling Psychology and Special Education Brigham Young University, Provo, UT 84602 Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Dr. Gabrielsen: One of the keys to improving outcomes for individuals with outcomes is to begin intervention as early as possible, which means we need to identify autism symptoms as early as possible, preferably during the early toddler years.  The current study grew out of a screening feasibility study to see what would happen if pediatricians followed the AAP guidelines for screening every child for autism at ages 18 and 24 months as part of their regular pediatric care appointments.  That study  was conducted in a large, independent community pediatrics practice.  We found that universal screening of 796 patients helped to identify 10 toddlers with autism who had not previously been referred for evaluations.  Physicians had previously identified 3 others with autism in the group, and toddlers with other delays, such as language delays, were also identified through the screening process.  We wondered what some possible causes were for the low rate of autism referrals and designed the current study to look for what information was available to a pediatrician during the timespan of a typical pediatric exam.  We found that even in toddlers with autism, a brief (10-minute) sample contains an overwhelming ratio of typical behaviors (averaging 89%) compared to infrequent atypical behaviors (11%)  that would indicate the presence of autism.  We had autism experts identifying the behaviors from videos of the evaluations of children in the previous study, so they had many luxuries that a clinician doesn't have during an exam (i.e., ability to focus on one aspect of development, ability to rewind and re-view behaviors).  After watching the 10-minute video observations, we asked our experts, "Would you refer this child for an autism evaluation?"  We found that even the experts missed referring a child for an autism evaluation 39% of the time when the only data available were the brief observations. (more…)
Author Interviews, JAMA, Mental Health Research, University of Pittsburgh / 06.01.2015

Dr. Brent David MD Academic Chief, Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic Professor of Psychiatry, Pediatrics & Epidemiology University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine MedicalResearch.com Interview with: Dr. Brent David MD Academic Chief, Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic Professor of Psychiatry, Pediatrics & Epidemiology University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine Medical Research: What is the background for this study? Dr. David: There are now many studies that show that suicide and suicidal behavior run in families. A family history of suicide increases the risk for suicide attempt and vice versa, so that we believe that the trait that is being passed from parent to child is a tendency to act on suicidal thoughts, resulting in either an attempt or an actual suicide. However, what was not not known was the mechanism by which parents transmitted the risk of suicidal behavior to their children, and what the precursors of suicidal behavior looked like in individuals who were at risk for suicidal behavior, but had not yet engaged in a suicide attempt. Therefore, we conducted a high-risk family study, in which studied the children of parents with mood disorders, about half of whom also had a history of a suicide attempt. Medical Research: What are the main findings? Dr. David: We followed 701 offspring for an average of 5.6 years, and found that those offspring whose parents had made a suicide attempt were almost 5 times more likely to make a suicide attempt themselves, even after accounting for mood disorder in parent and child and past suicidal behavior in the offspring. We found three main pathways by which suicidal behavior was passed from parent to child:
  • Parental mood disorder was transmitted to children, and that was a precursor of a suicide attempt.
  • Parent attempt was related to offspring impulsive aggression, which in turn increased the risk for mood disorder, which then increased the likelihood of a suicide attempt. (We define impulsive aggression as a tendency to response with hostility or aggression to provocation or frustration.
  • Finally, there is a direct path from parent attempt to child attempt, with no precursors or intervening variables.
Implications for clinicians and patients:
  • First, these findings highlight that a parental history of a suicide attempt increases the risk of an attempt in the parent's children. Clinicians who take care of adults who have attempted suicide should make sure that children are assessed as they are at increased risk and that parents know what to look for in the future in order to get their children into needed treatment.
  • Second, the transmission of suicidal behavior from parent to child can be attenuated by preventing the transmission of mood disorder, and of impulsive aggression. There are now evidence based interventions that reduce the likelihood of a child of a depressed parent from developing depression; these treatment involve cognitive behavioral principles and may also involve family interventions. There are now good family-based interventions for impulsive aggression that can attenuate the risk that the child or adolescent will go on to develop a mood disorder, which in turn greatly increases the risk for suicidal behavior.
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Author Interviews, JAMA, Schizophrenia / 06.01.2015

MedicalResearch.com Interview with: Toshiaki A. Furukawa, MD, PhD Professor and Chair, Department of Health Promotion and Human Behavior Professor, Department of Clinical Epidemiology Kyoto University Graduate School of Medicine / School of Public Health, Yoshida Konoe-cho, Sakyo-ku, Kyoto Japan Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Dr. Furukawa: The efficacy of antidepressants in the treatment of depressive disorders has recently been called into question as some studies suggested they may have less efficacy for the milder spectrum of the disorder. It is not known if the same would apply to antipsychotics, which constitute the mainstay in the treatment of schizophrenia. We found that, in patients with schizophrenia with acute treatment as well as with predominant negative symptoms, the severer the baseline severity, the greater the magnitude of the benefit from the active treatment in comparison with placebo. (more…)
Author Interviews, JAMA, Mental Health Research, UCSF / 06.01.2015

Dr. Georges Naasan MD Neurologist, Clinical Instructor UCSF Memory and Aging CenterMedicalResearch.com Interview with: Dr. Georges Naasan MD Neurologist, Clinical Instructor UCSF Memory and Aging Center Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Dr. Naasan: Degenerative diseases of the brain can lead to dysfunction in judgment, emotional processing, social decorum and self-awareness. In turn, such dysfunctions may result in criminal behavior that appears for the first time in middle-aged adults or even later in life. We studied 2397 patients from the Memory and Aging Center at UCSF and found 204 (8.5%) that had a criminal behavior as part of their illness. The large majority of these patients were patients with a specific type of neurodegenerative disease called behavioral variant of frontotemporal dementia, followed by a group of people with a disease called semantic variant of primary progressive aphasia. People with Alzheimer's disease, a disease that does not usually interrupt the functions mentioned above, were the least likely to exhibit criminal behavior. The common manifestation of criminal behaviors in people with the behavioral variant frontotemporal dementia included theft, sexual advances trespassing and public urination in contrast to people with Alzheimer's disease who, when such behaviors were present, primarily committed traffic violations often secondary to cognitive impairment. (more…)
Author Interviews, Depression, Heart Disease / 05.01.2015

Nancy L. Sin, Ph.D. Postdoctoral Fellow Center for Healthy Aging & Department of Biobehavioral Health The Pennsylvania State University University Park, PA 16802MedicalResearch.com Interview with: Nancy L. Sin, Ph.D. Postdoctoral Fellow Center for Healthy Aging & Department of Biobehavioral Health The Pennsylvania State University University Park, PA 16802 Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Dr. Sin: Older patients with coronary heart disease often experience declines in functional status, which is the ability to perform daily activities such as bathing, walking, and doing housework. The key factors that contribute to functional status among cardiac patients are not well-understood. Previous studies have found only weak or no associations between cardiovascular disease severity and functional status. Psychological factors—such as depression—are known to increase the risk of functional impairment, but this has not been studied long-term in patients with coronary heart disease. It is unclear the extent to which long-term functional status is determined by psychological factors versus cardiovascular disease severity. The purpose of our study was to compare the contributions of depressive symptoms with those of cardiovascular disease severity (specifically, left ventricular ejection fraction, exercise capacity, and angina frequency) for predicting subsequent functional decline in 960 older adults with stable coronary heart disease. Across a 5-year period, people who had more severe depressive symptoms were at greater risk of functional decline, independent of cardiovascular disease severity, demographics, health behaviors, cognitive function, and other factors.  Low exercise capacity was also strongly related to future functional decline, but ejection fraction and angina frequency were not. These findings underscore the importance of considering both mental and physical health in determining long-term functional status. (more…)
Accidents & Violence, Author Interviews, JAMA, Mental Health Research, Pediatrics / 01.01.2015

MedicalResearch.com Interview with: Joseph A Simonetti, MD MPH Research Fellow Harborview Injury Prevention & Research Center University of Washington Seattle, WA, USA Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Dr. Simonetti: Studies have consistently shown that children living in households where firearms are stored safely have a lower risk of suffering firearm injuries, including lethal firearm injuries, compared to those living in households where firearms are stored unlocked and/or loaded. Safe firearm storage is widely recommended by public health experts, professional medical societies, and gun rights organizations, especially for households where children might be suffering from mental heath and substance abuse issues that put them at increased risk for suicide or unintentional injury. Our goal was to find out if those recommendations were being effectively implemented in the community. To do this, we used survey data that assessed mental health conditions and firearm access among a nationally representative sample of US adolescents. Medical Research: What are the main findings? Dr. Simonetti: First, we confirmed previous findings that a large proportion of US adolescents have access to a firearm in the home. Of those who reported living in a home with a firearm, 40% said they could immediately access and shoot the firearm. Second, the prevalence of most mental health diagnoses was similar between adolescents who did and did not report firearm access. However, a greater proportion of adolescents with firearm access had drug and alcohol disorders compared to adolescents who reported living in a home with a firearm but did not have access to the firearm. The main finding was that children with mental health risk factors for suicide were just as likely to report in-home firearm access as those without identified risk factors. This finding held true even when comparing firearm access between children with no identified risk factors and those who reported a recent suicide attempt, who arguably have the highest suicide risk in this sample. (more…)
Author Interviews, Cognitive Issues, Depression, Primary Care / 31.12.2014

Patrick Monahan, Ph.D. Associate Professor Indiana University School of Medicine and School of Public HealthMedicalResearch.com Interview with: Patrick Monahan, Ph.D. Associate Professor Indiana University School of Medicine and School of Public Health Medical Research: What is the background for this study? Dr. Monahan: Primary care providers need a clinical practical (e.g., brief, inexpensive, simple, user-friendly, easily standardized, and widely available) multidomain instrument to measure and monitor the cognitive, functional, and psychological symptoms of patients suffering from multiple chronic conditions. The tool also needs to be sensitive to change so that providers can use it to monitor patient outcomes and adjust the care plan accordingly. We created such a tool and then investigated its psychometric properties (in other words, reliability and validity) in our study of 291 older patients (aged 65 and older) who had at least one recent visit to our urban primary care clinics in Indianapolis, Indiana. These patients had presented with evidence of cognitive or depression problems because these patients and their caregivers were participating in a collaborative care model for such patients. Medical Research: What are the main findings? Dr. Monahan: The Healthy Aging Brain Care (HABC) Monitor demonstrated excellent reliability and validity in this study where patients self-reported their symptoms. Our previous study also showed excellent reliability and validity of the HABC Monitor when the patients’ symptoms were reported by their informal caregiver. (more…)
Author Interviews, Mental Health Research, Sleep Disorders / 31.12.2014

Jacob Nota M.S. Binghamton Anxiety Clinic Department of Psychology Binghamton University Binghamton, NY 13902MedicalResearch.com Interview with: Jacob Nota M.S. Binghamton Anxiety Clinic Department of Psychology Binghamton University Binghamton, NY 13902 Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Response: As psychologists we are interested in helping individuals improve their quality of life and reduce their symptoms. We know that many people, including those with anxiety and mood disorders, are bothered by repetitive negative thoughts that feel like they are out of control. We are always looking for new ways that we might be able to reduce these kinds of symptoms. We are specifically interested in learning more about how sleep relates to psychopathology because an extensive literature documents the cognitive and emotional impact of sleep disruption. Therefore, addressing sleep disruption may be another avenue for us to explore for helping out clients. However, there is relatively little research on the relation between sleep timing and psychopathology compared to that studying the relation between sleep duration and psychopathology, despite previous studies showing that individuals who go to bed later than they want to have more disorders characterized by worry, rumination, and obsessing. This study collected cross-sectional data (i.e., measuring sleep, worry, rumination, and obsessing all at the same point in time) from a group of 100 young adults at Binghamton University. We looked at measures of worry, rumination, and obsessing as well as a newer measure of the process thought to be shared across these psychological phenomena (repetitive negative thinking). We found that people who sleep for shorter amounts of time and go to bed later also have greater levels of worry, rumination, and obsessing. This is called repetitive negative thinking (RNT). We also found that individuals who are classified as "evening type" (i.e., tend to stay up later and shape their daily activities around this schedule), a trait that is linked to biological circadian rhythms, report significantly greater levels of repetitive negative thinking compared to individuals who are "morning" or neither type (i.e., not strongly morning or evening). This is one of the first studies to show that repetitive negative thinking is related to both how long you sleep and when you sleep. (more…)
Author Interviews, Exercise - Fitness, Geriatrics, Memory / 29.12.2014

Scott M. Hayes, Ph.D. Associate Director Neuroimaging Research for Veterans Center Memory Disorders Research Center VA Boston Healthcare System Assistant Professor of Psychiatry Boston University School of MedicineMedicalResearch.com Interview with: Scott M. Hayes, Ph.D. Associate Director Neuroimaging Research for Veterans Center Memory Disorders Research Center VA Boston Healthcare System Assistant Professor of Psychiatry Boston University School of Medicine Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Dr. Hayes:   Studies with rodents have demonstrated that physical activity positively impacts memory, whereas human studies have tended to emphasize a relationship with executive function—which refers to one’s ability to plan, organize, and manipulate information in one’s mind.  To clarify the relationship between fitness, cognition, and aging, we directly assessed cardiorespiratory fitness (heart and lung function) using the gold standard in the field, a graded treadmill test, and assessed both memory and executive functions in young and older adults.  Our results showed that cardiorespiratory fitness was positively associated with memory and executive functions in older adults, but not young adults.  In fact, on tests of executive functions, older adults with higher levels of cardiorespiratory fitness performed as well as younger adults. The impact of cardiorespiratory fitness may be age-dependent.  Young adults, who are at their peak in terms of memory performance, may exhibit minimal associations with cardiorespiratory fitness.  In contrast, cardiorespiratory fitness likely has a larger impact in older adults by attenuating age-related decline in memory. (more…)